Foreign tourists do not mind British weather, reveals VisitBritain survey
Wednesday 4, August 2010
Overseas visitors are not put off taking a holiday in the UK by our weather, new research by VisitBritain reveals.
This country’s unpredictable atmospheric conditions are less of a barrier to the 30 million overseas tourists who came to Britain last year than conventional wisdom might suggest.
In a VisitBritain survey (1), 1,000 would-be holidaymakers in three dozen countries worldwide were asked to rate how much they agreed with this statement: "I would not want to visit Britain because of the weather there."
On a scale where 1 equals "strongly disagree" and 7 equals "strongly agree" the average score was just 2.76, indicating that, overall, people strongly disagreed with that view.
They were also asked to rate the opinion: "Britain is always wet and foggy." The average score was 4.48 suggesting that people tended to agree, but not very strongly.
In fact foreign tourists largely come here to do things that are not affected by the weather. In a separate survey of 50,000 foreign visitors (2) it emerged that the most popular activity is taking advantage of Britain’s magnificent opportunities to go shopping for clothes and accessories (45%) or for fashion, design, home and antiques (42%). This is closely followed by another undercover activity - 4 in 10 visitors went to a pub.
Visiting castles, churches, monuments or historic houses was an activity enjoyed by three out of every ten visitors, with nearly one quarter of visitors going to parks or gardens, and to museums or art galleries.
Another reason they come is our weather is not as bad as folklore would have it. BBC weather centre data (3) shows Britain compares surprisingly well with many other potential holiday destinations. For example, the average number of days on which rain falls in London each year is less than in Paris, Santander in Spain, and Wellington (New Zealand).
If you put all the days that London has no rain in a year back-to back the dry spell would last from 1 January to 1 August. London is drier than Rome, New York, Brisbane, Rio de Janiero and Tokyo. The average minimum daily temperature in London is higher than in Seattle, Dublin and Toronto. The roll of meteorological honour is long.
Inverness has about half as much rain as Porto. Colwyn Bay has less rain than Hamilton, Bermuda. Lincoln is warmer than Innsbruck. York is warmer than Toronto. Birmingham is drier than Pisa. Bath is warmer than Copenhagen. Dungeness has just over half as much rain as Rio De Janeiro. Manchester has less than half as much rain as Cairns.
Some foreign tourists, especially those in the Middle East and parts of Asia, told researchers that our relatively cool summers are just the ticket when looking for a way of escaping the 50 degrees Fahrenheit heat of home. Many Japanese visitors said they love our gardens, so a drop of rain helping to keep the grass green and flowers from wilting is no bad thing.
Some first-time Chinese visitors may be a disappointed that, unlike in the Dickens novels they’ve read, it is not permanently foggy in London. Indeed London regularly enjoys more than 200 hours of sunshine in a typical summer month. A resident of Edmonton, Canada would find Britain’s January temperatures positively balmy compared to the average high of –9C back in their home city.
While talking about the weather will forever be a favoured pastime for Brits, the impact it has on inbound tourism’s prospects is at best negligible.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain, said: "This survey shows that Britain’s weather is not as bad as folklore would have us believe. Our research also tells us that visitors from overseas come here to experience our world class heritage and culture, be this Tate Liverpool, Edinburgh Castle, the British Museum or Stonehenge. Visitors do not come with a belief that should a few drops of rain fall then their trip will be ruined."
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